In the beginning of 2017, I was told of an annual conference called SIGGRAPH ASIA by a researcher in Sunway University during my 4th semester here in the American Degree Transfer Programme (ADTP).
SIGGRAPH ASIA (short for Special Interest Group on Computer GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques) is a renowned and recognised multimedia conference, attended by thousands of computer professionals annually. It is hosted annually in different locations in Asia at every end of the year (around the last two months).
It is hard to believe how friendly the people outside really are. This is Alex, an American, one of my first friends I’ve met there.
I was recommended to volunteer as a Student Volunteer (SV) in that conference because of the benefits it brought to me as a Computer Science major. Having a passion in the Computer Science field, I couldn’t help but feel excited to be given a chance to go into foreign territory all by myself. Without a second of doubt, I applied to volunteer via their website in April 2017.
To my astonishment, I was actually selected after waiting a few months, to be one of the SVs for the upcoming event along with few hundred others from all around the world. I booked my place tickets and accommodations shorty after and prepared to travel to Bangkok, Thailand, where this year’s conference was being held. On the 25th of November 2017, I landed in Bangkok.
Having dinner with a group of researchers presenting their papers in SIGGRAPH Asia. They come from Thailand and Japan. One of them is from our very own, Sunway University.
Upon arriving in my hostel, everyone present at the lounge was from foreign places like Europe and America. I tried to muster enough courage to speak to them but failed because of the overwhelming feeling the whole atmosphere brought onto me. The difference initially, was too great, from their speech patterns to their little actions, everything pointed at telling me that I was too different from them to actually mix with them. This was the first time I’ve truly experienced a culture shock of this level. I felt alone that night, and I told myself it would be asinine if I kept this up for the rest of my stay here. I was determined to make my mark come the actual first day at work, tomorrow.
Upon arriving at my workplace the next day, the atmosphere was no different than the hostel the day before, completely overwhelming. However, this time I was adamant I wouldn’t make the same mistake again and I started by talking to one of them, taking one step at the time to familiarise myself with these people. I started conversing with the locals first and then I got to mix with the other groups with different backgrounds.
It came to me as a surprise but I’ve realised that these people weren’t so different from me after all. We were all from different places but in the end of the day, we all had the same set of interests and that was to make this
conference an unforgettable one. Once I’ve familiarised myself with the people there, speaking to everyone was like a walk in the park.
A photo with few of our Team Leaders during our shifts.
I got to meet up with some of the most interesting people I’ve met in my life, a lot of them from unfamiliar fields from content creation to voice acting. I even got to meet some of the big-company staff workers presenting in SIGGRAPH, like Square Enix and Unity. In addition to this roster, some very established researchers were also presenting their research papers in this large-scaled conference.
Being at SIGGRAPH gave me the benefit of having the opportunity to network with these established people in the fields which I have an interest in. I’ve also had the chance to ask them many questions on their experiences in their respective fields, something that almost never occurs in my campus life prior. One day on duty, I met a field engineer working at Unity Technologies and got his contact as well. This is crucial because networking is essential as it serves as a springboard for us to venture greater opportunities in the future.
Dinner with friends from the United States and Italy after our shifts in a nearby mall.
During my free time, I attended some of the other workshops and sessions presented by professionals from all across the globe. I have personally attended a few sessions and they had covered the gaming aspects of Meta AI, decision-makings of the AI, the path-finding systems and point query systems of navigational AIs in games, motional analysis, data logging and etc.
As a matter of fact, all of us SVs were encouraged to attend as many sessions as possible because it was free exclusively to us. As SVs, we were exempt from paying registration fees since we were doing volunteer work. The price for a full conference pass for non-SIGGRAPH members were 995 USD each (approximately 3800 MYR) and even for students who were not SVs, it cost 295 USD (approximately 1100 MYR).
Price exemptions aside, ACM SIGGRAPH also provided a one-on-one, 20-minute-long, résumé and reel review session for SVs who sought professional advice from actual professionals from various backgrounds. In addition, those aforementioned professionals also gave us SVs a better insight to build a better demo reel and résumé to best showcase our experiences and skill sets. A free USB filled with the publications presented during the conference was also given to all participants in this year’s SIGGRAPH Asia. This was invaluable to us because a good majority of us did not have the sufficient time to view every single one of the papers showcased throughout the conference.
On the train with my fellow workmates after our shifts en route to the nearby mall.
All this aside, I benefited greatly with working with such a talented group of people. One admirable aspect about the SVs was that they knew the priorities of balancing work and having fun, a trait that is in my opinion, severely lacking amongst the students in Malaysia. When we were on duty, we did our best to fulfil our team leader’s instructions; when we were off work, we had a blast
with events like karaoke but we made sure that it did not affect our performances the day after.
With the newly obtained confidence I’ve acquired at work, I got along with some of the guys at the hostel as well, on days when I came back early from the conference, I would spend time with the guys I met in the hostel. We went to tourist attractions late night and had many nights to remember. All in all, the experience was synonymous to a vacation, but just with extra fun work!
I got a chance to attend an inspirational talk by Albert Yu-Min Lin, an award-winning scientist.
Coming back home to Malaysia I reminisced about the days spent there. SIGGRAPH Asia was truly a great experience. Not only has it improved my outlook on conferences such as these, it has tremendously improved my CV in applying for good universities. Since SIGGRAPH is based in the United States and since universities there tend to look at extracurricular activities more, this participation has really paid dividends for me. It also makes me feel more equipped when I actually head to the United States in the future because of all the foreign culture I’ve encountered during this trip. It was definitely an experience I will never forget!
I was also very privileged to have the CAE department fund a part of my travel expenses as they are always willing to provide opportunities for students to have an experience like this.
All the invaluable souvenirs I obtained from the week.
So in conclusion, I highly recommended my fellow peers in ADTP and also Sunway to do the same as well. I wish all the current ADTP and Sunway students the best of luck in the future and I hope you seize chances like these because you will never know where it might lead you to!
I also got a chance to meet up with Takeshi Honjo, one of the artists in the team that made the game, Final Fantasy XV.
Another photo with the main team in Square Enix that presented their work here in SIGGRAPH Asia.
Me posing in front of the SIGGRAPH Asia 2017 banner.
By: Chao-Jin Teh